GAZA: Israel kept up its barrage of the Gaza Strip on Thursday (Dec 14) despite growing international calls to reduce civilian casualties from its bombardment as a surge in deadly diseases sweeps through displaced residents.
Israel says its attacks on Gaza are aimed at annihilating Hamas, the group whose fighters stormed across the border fence from Gaza on Oct 7, killing 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, and seizing 240 prisoners.
Since then, Israel has put much of the Palestinian enclave to waste. At least 18,608 people have been killed and 50,594 injured in Israeli strikes on Gaza, according to Gaza’s health minister.
The vast majority of the population of 2.3 million has fled their homes, many sleeping rough, leaving them exposed to illness.
At Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, where the trauma room has been overwhelmed with the wounded, sick babies were also crammed several to a bed in the children’s ward.
“A number of patients come with cases of extreme dehydration, some of which can get to the point of kidney failure or weakening kidney function,” said Dr Ahmed al-Farra, head of paediatrics.
There had already been up to 30 cases of hepatitis A, which takes up to a month to develop, he said.
“So after a month there will be an explosion in the number of cases of hepatitis A, and this is a very dangerous indicator that should be paid attention to, from overcrowding and consuming food not fit for human consumption and using shared toilets,” he said.
The coastal strip is now facing a public health disaster due to the collapse of its health system and the spread of disease, the UN relief office said.
“We’ve got a textbook formula for epidemics and a public health disaster,” said Lynn Hastings, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
In central Rafah, in the south of the coastal region, 24 people were killed in an Israeli strike that hit two houses, Hamas media said early on Thursday. There was no immediate confirmation from the Palestinian health minister.
Nearly half of the air-to-ground munitions that Israel has used in Gaza in its war with Hamas since Oct 7 have been unguided, otherwise known as “dumb bombs,” according to a new US intelligence estimate reported by CNN.
About 40 per cent to 45 per cent of the 29,000 air-to-ground munitions Israel has used have been unguided and the rest have been precision-guided munitions, the CNN story added.
Fears of the conflict spreading in a volatile region continue.
A tanker in the Red Sea off Yemen’s coast was fired on by gunmen in a speedboat and targeted with missiles, marine sources said on Wednesday. It is the latest incident to threaten the important shipping lane after Yemeni Houthi forces, which are backed by Iran, warned ships not to travel to Israel.
The cost of the Israel-Hamas war to neighbours Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan in terms of loss of GDP may amount to US$10.3 billion or 2.3 per cent, and might double if the conflict lasts six more months, a study commissioned by the UN Development Programme said.